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This Week in Tarbell

We’ve finally concluded our NewsMatch campaign! Thank you so much to everyone who joined as a Tarbell member, renewed their membership, or donated in any small amount. We want to make some big changes in 2020, and I’m looking forward to more developments in the year ahead!

Since we’re starting a new decade, and a big year for Tarbell, I thought I’d take the opportunity to review the best of our reporting from 2019 and look ahead to some issues to watch in this new year.



Tarbell’s Top 3 from 2019

PBM power: When CVS Caremark arbitrarily prescribed her a new medication for rheumatoid arthritis, Delaware resident Robin Agar was scared to take it because she had a dangerous reaction with a similar kind of drug. But trying to restore her original prescription exposed her into the disorganized world of pharmaceutical benefits managers (PBMs), which are confusing and disheveled to the point where representatives repeatedly gave her the wrong number to get approval for the drugs.

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Nearly sentenced to pain: The opioid crisis is raging across America, but hasty legislation might doom pain patients to suffer through their issues. Oregon was considering legislation that would completely revoke Medicaid users’ access to opioids, and pain patients like Wendy Thomas would consider assisted suicide if they lost that access. The vote was stalled after this story came out, but the legislation could surface again.

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More options? Or fewer? Iowa privatized its Medicaid system under the promise it would save the state money. However, a Tarbell investigation demonstrated no evidence of a cost improvement, and instead Iowans were paying much more for their health care.

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Topics to Watch in 2020

Election 2020: Of course! 2019 ended with the third impeachment decision ever in American history, and even if President Trump is unlikely to be impeached in the Senate and would pursue a second term, there will continue to be a lot of corporate and special interest spending on each side of that fight. In addition, the competition among Democratic candidates will heat up, and we at Tarbell will be monitoring debates over corporate influence in campaigns and issues like health care in the election.

Health Care: It’s the hottest — and perhaps the tensest — debate among Democratic primary candidates, but this is because Americans are falling apart under the weight of their medical bills. Whether Medicare for All sees the light of day or not, there will certainly be more health industry spending to quash universal health care efforts before any decision can be made. And of course, the titans of the health care industry — Big Pharma, hospital systems and PBMs — will do what they can to maximize profits, regardless the impact on patients.

Corporate Impact on the Environment: Perhaps one of the most profound but understated legacies of the Trump administration will be massive rollbacks on all range of environmental regulations, allowing companies to evade fallout for the pollution and natural disasters they create. And when they do take the blame, punishment hardly matches the cost of damage they effect. Electing a federal government that does not acknowledge climate change as reality and pulled out of the Paris accords has enabled all range of government officials to side with companies over environmental impacts, but environmental issues might become a hotter topic in local elections, politics and protests as a result.

Thanks again for sticking with me through another year! We’ve got a lot ahead in 2020, and I hope you continue to follow us through these changes, and as always, write to me with your feedback and story suggestions!

All the best,